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COVID-19: EU chief urges compromise on coronavirus rescue package

Charles Michel battles to save a deadlocked summit
(European Council President Charles Michel hosts talks with EU leaders. Photo: AP)

BRUSSELS, (AFP):- EU summit host Charles Michel implored the bloc’s bickering leaders to compromise on a huge economic rescue pack on Sunday as he battled to save a deadlocked summit.

Michel, hosting the Brussels talks as EU Council president, told leaders over dinner that he had adapted his proposed 750-billion-euro (Dh3.1 trillion) package of loans and grants to satisfy the concerns of some reluctant member states.

“All through this negotiation, I have listened to each of you and shown the greatest respect,” he said, according to a copy of his remarks seen by AFP.

“My hope is that we will get to an agreement and that tomorrow morning the headlines of European newspapers will say the EU has pulled off a mission impossible. This is what I hope in my heart.”

According to European officials, in response to the demands of a band of so-called “frugal” states led by the Netherlands, Michel has offered to reduce the share of the rescue package that would be paid out as grants.

Previously the plan had been for 500 billion euros to be shared out to the states worst hit by the economic devastation of the virus as non-refundable subsidies, and 250 billion euros as loans.

The proportion would now be 400 billion euros in grants and 350 billion euros in loans.

It was not clear, however, whether this would be enough to placate the frugals — the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland — who have called for deep cuts and strict conditions on the loans.

They also want the rebates they receive on the contributions to the EU budget to be increased. Michel told the leaders he would do this, but diplomats said the five were holding out for more.

After the dinner, the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states are supposed to begin a plenary session of the summit to resolve the remaining deep disputes, but it was not clear whether this would be postponed until Monday or a new summit in August.

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